Bob Baffert had to sweat out a thrilling stretch run and then anxious moments while the Santa Anita stewards considered an inquiry, but in the end the Hall of Fame trainer got his first win in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) when Bayern held off Toast of New York and California Chrome in a three-way photo.
There was drama in the 1 ¼-mile Classic from start to finish. The post-race inquiry came as a result of the start, when Bayern broke very quickly, but somewhat to the inside, bumping post-time favorite. Bayern’s rider Martin Garcia said afterward he didn’t thing the incident was anything major.
“My horse broke so fast I was almost sure I didn’t bother (anybody),” said Garcia.
Regardless, Bayern was on his way to the lead and the rail, where he stayed for the backstretch run and around the final turn.
In the stretch, Toast of New York battled on to push Bayern to the limit, but the 3-year-old showed his heart by repelling every challenge, holding off the runner-up by a nose, while Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1), who was third most of the way, was another neck back in the show spot.
The final time was an excellent 1:59.88 on the fast track.
“That was the race we were hoping he would give, and what we got today,” said a slightly anxious Baffert as he waited for the decision of the stewards. “He is such a courageous horse. I told Martin to get the lead no matter what, he rode a masterful race.”
More notably relieved after the race went official, Baffert said: “(Owner) Kaleem Shah deserves this more than anybody; he has such a passion for this game. And I’m so proud of (Martin) and my staff who work so hard.”
The front-running Bayern now has wins in the Haskell Invitational (G1), Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and Woody Stephens S. (G2), winning at distances from seven to ten furlongs, and has to be seriously considered for 3-year-old championship honors.
Bayern upped his lifetime earnings to $4,389,680 with the big $2,750,000 payday.